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Beefs and Beliefs

Short Water Line Alters Grazing Effects

Change in paddock shape and size to accommodate water position hurts forage management.

I knew I didn’t lay down a long enough water line this summer, but I decided what I put down would have to do.

 The cattle could walk back to the nearest water from the far end of the pasture, I decided.

 Of course, it worked, but because of that decision I’m continuing to learn some interesting things about paddock size and shape, along with stock density.

 When I reached the end of the waterline I had been running long, narrow paddocks lying perpendicular to the line. I decided to finish out the pasture in what some might call a half wagon wheel, with the spokes being the temporary electric fences reaching out to the perimeter and forming triangular paddocks.

 When I measured the biggest of these paddocks I was in for a big surprise. It was actually a trapezoid so I had to get a formula from a geometry site on the Internet to figure it up. I guessed it was twice as big as my previous paddocks. It wasn’t. It was 4.4 times as large as the old average.

 I went from 80,000 pounds stock density, and sometimes more, down to 18,000 pounds stock density. It really decreased the amount of litter the cattle were putting on the ground, both from weeds and from older, less-desirable forage.

It also seemed to leave more forage standing upright with just the tops cropped off.

 I couldn’t see any visible difference in weed consumption.

 However, I’m pretty sure performance suffered since by the third day of grazing in that paddock fecal pats were quite a bit more firm and stacked up than they’ve been all summer on moves with frequency of six to 24 hours.

 I guess in a sense all this just proves what people say about water being the most limiting factor in grazing management.

 Now I’ve changed to using a lane to water which sprouts long, narrow paddocks reaching to the end of the pasture. It’s working much better.

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